Raising funding or capital for a business you're starting can be a major hurdle on the road to bringing your vision to life.
While bank loans and pitching investors are still viable fundraising options, crowdfunding gives you the opportunity to get support from a crowd: a group of individuals who collectively invest in your idea to make it a reality.
Crowdfunding sites have allowed entrepreneurs around the world to fundraise for their businesses and causes, adding $65 billion in revenue to the global economy in 2020, according to Fundly's latest report.
What's more, crowdfunding can also give entrepreneurs a way to validate demand for their ideas before they enter production by letting others buy in with pre-orders, donations, and investments.
Below, we'll look at 10 crowdfunding sites worth exploring to raise money for your business.
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What is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is a business funding strategy that focuses on raising smaller amounts of money from a larger collective of individuals. Compare that to traditional fundraising, which relies on raising large sums of money from accredited investors or venture capital firms, one source at a time.
How does crowdfunding work?
Crowdfunding “backers”—as they're often called—can be offered a number of incentives in exchange for their support, including:
- The opportunity to become early adopters of an innovative product
- The option to pre-order a product and have a say in its development
- Exclusive rewards like an early bird discount or free swag when you launch
- Personal access to the founding team or the chance to support people they know personally
- Equity in an early or growth-stage company with high potential, though this is less common for consumer-facing brands
In exchange for hosting your Crowdfunding sites charge a platform fee (either as a monthly rate or a percentage of money raised), a transaction fee, a payment processing fee, or some combination.
While every crowdfunding site has its own unique features, overall fee structure, and user base, the core concept is the same: you submit your project to the platform with a fundraising target and a deadline and then campaign for support online, often through social media.
So, what are your options for raising funds for your business via crowdfunding platforms? Let's take a look at some of today's best crowdfunding websites (and Kickstarter alternatives), spanning a variety of use cases, you can use to raise funds for your next campaign.
The 10 best crowdfunding websites
- Best Overall: Kickstarter
- Runner Up: Indiegogo
- Best for Creators: Patreon
- Best for Shopify Stores: Crowdfunder
- Best for Personal: GoFundMe
- Best for Small Businesses: Fundable
- Best for UK and Europe: Crowdcube
- Best for Nonprofits: Mightycause
- Best for Seed-Stage Companies: SeedInvest
- Best for High-Growth Startups: StartEngine
Best overall crowdfunding platform
Fees: Platform fee of 5% if you meet your goal, plus payment transaction fees between 3% and 5% (US).
As the most popular fundraising platform where creative projects can find support, Kickstarter is almost synonymous with crowdfunding. Since its launch in 2009, the Kickstarter community has helped over 200,000 projects raise funds—including physical products, movies, games, and more—to the tune of $5.9 billion.
Kickstarter is a reward-based fundraiser platform. Backers are offered incentives to support a project, including t-shirts, shoutouts, or exclusive pre-order discounts. You can offer different tiers of rewards too. The more money a backer pledges, the better the rewards they unlock.
Kickstarter campaigns are an all-or-nothing affair, which means you only get access to your funds (and pay Kickstarter's platform fee) if you meet your initial fundraising goal. If you fall short, then all the money stays with your funders.
The result is that projects on Kickstarter tend to be high-quality and novel—often creative or innovative enough to catch the attention of early adopters and headlines from the press. Backers also generally view these projects as more trustworthy, given that they don't actually part with their money unless the campaign succeeds.
You can learn more about running a successful Kickstarter campaign in our interviews with Spotify merchants Rockwell Razors, SaniKind, and LastObject. And if you're looking to transition from your Kickstarter campaign to a Shopify store, be sure to check out our guide.
Second-best overall crowdfunding platform
Fees: 5% platform fee if you meet your goal (not including payment processing fees).
Indiegogo is a robust crowdfunding platform that supports businesses, artists, and nonprofits. While at first glance it may sound similar to Kickstarter, it comes with its own set of easy-to-use tools and campaign options.
The most noteworthy difference is the option to choose a fixed funding goal (all or nothing, like Kickstarter), or a flexible funding goal for your campaign. With flexible funding goals, you receive your funds regardless of whether you've met your goal by its deadline.
The flexible funding option is especially useful when you can fulfill your promise to backers even if you don't raise enough capital, say if you're launching a new product line for an established business.
On top of that, Indiegogo InDemand lets you continue raising money even after your fundraising campaign ends, while you're in the production stage or getting ready to fulfill orders.
InDemand is available to you whether you run your campaign on Indiegogo or another fundraising platform. Shopify store BodyBoss actually transitioned to Indiegogo InDemand right after its success on Kickstarter.
Best crowdfunding platform for creators
Fees: Between 5% and 12% of your monthly income, depending on your Patreon pricing plan.
Patreon is one of the most unique crowdfunding sites on this list, with a specific focus on the new wave of creators—bloggers, YouTubers, podcasts, cartoonists, musicians, live streamers, and their ilk.
Whereas many of the top crowdfunding sites support limited-run campaigns, Patreon was made for creators and internet personalities with loyal audiences to generate recurring revenue through paid memberships. You can choose to let patrons pay per month for special community perks, or per creation to incentivize you to create more.
Patreon creators offer all kinds of exclusive perks based on different payment tiers, such as exclusive content, branded swag, sneak peeks, shoutouts, and more. If you're a creator who regularly ships new content and has a sizable online fan base, it might be worth creating a Patreon page.
Here, you can build a community of dedicated fans and serve exclusive content (through Patreon's various integrations) that unlocks based on the patron's membership tier.
You can learn more about monetizing your audience with Patreon in this interview with Wait But Why.
Best crowdfunding app for Shopify stores
Fees: $24/month (not including your Shopify subscription).
If you already have a Shopify store and are interested in crowdfunding a new product through your own website, the Crowdfunder app for Shopify is a great fit.
While other crowdfunding sites require you to set up a page on their platform, Crowdfunder enables you to transform a product page on your website into a crowdfunding page, complete with a progress bar, setting your goal based on a threshold of items ordered or money raised.
Crowdfunder enables crowdfunding in its simplest form: accepting pre-orders from people as a way to simultaneously validate an idea and fund production. Plus, you can avoid the commissions charged by third-party platforms in favor of a more predictable monthly fee.
You can use it to test out new product ideas, raise money for a cause, or launch limited-run products.
Best crowdfunding site for personal fundraising
Fees: No platform fee for personal and charity campaigns started in US dollars. 2.9% transaction for debit and credit card charges, plus $0.30 per donation.
While most of the other crowdfunding sites on this list are designed to fund creative projects and early stage startups, and GoFundMe is a free crowdfunding platform built primarily to raise financial support for individuals, charitable causes, and community projects.
Because GoFundMe is suited to personal fundraising—and anyone can go about creating a campaign—backers on the platform tend to only support campaigns that come from within their own personal networks and communities, or causes they're familiar with. Say, supporting a youth sports fundraiser or helping a family in need.
GoFundMe isn't designed for commercial crowdfunding campaigns, like the other crowdfunding websites on this list. However, if you're a small business owner who has fallen on hard times, or you need to raise money to overcome a personal challenge, you can try leveraging GoFundMe for support from your personal network.
Best crowdfunding platform for small businesses
Fees: $179 per month during active campaigns instead of a percentage of total funds raised (not including payment processing fees).
Fundable is part of the Startups.co platform and is among the top crowdfunding sites that allow startups (registered in the US only, for now) to offer rewards or equity in exchange for funding.
According to its site, startups that offer rewards typically raise less overall (under $50,000) but get more backers, whereas startups that use equity crowdfunding usually raise more capital from fewer investors.
However, to succeed with equity crowdfunding, you need all the ingredients accredited investors expect to see: a track record of growth, a solid business plan, and a pitch deck, if not more.
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Best crowdfunding website for UK and Europe
Fees: 7% of funds raised if you meet your goal, and a 0.75% to 1.25% completion fee. Payment processing fees vary.
While many of the crowdfunding sites on our list are built for a US audience, Crowdcube is a UK-based equity crowdfunding platform.
Crowdcube has a relatively small number of campaigns, but companies that are approved and succeed with their fundraising goals on the platform are able to join Crowdcube's Funded Club, gaining exclusive benefits from their partner organizations.
You can promote your pitch to solicit investors from your network or appeal to Crowdcube's established community.
Best crowdfunding site for nonprofits
Fees: $59/month, not including payment processing fees.
Mightycause is an online fundraising platform that has been around since the beginning of crowdfunding. While platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo get all the limelight, campaigners have raised over $600 million on Mightycause since 2006.
Mightycause boasts an easy-to-use platform that empowers ordinary people to achieve their fundraising goals. You can create a fundraising page quickly and collect donations from friends, families, communities, and people in your social media network in no time.
The platform doesn't require you to meet any goals. So if your fundraiser doesn't meet its financial goal, you still get to keep the donations you receive. Policies are flexible, there is no platform fee, and you don't need to wait for any approvals before launching your campaign.
Best crowdfunding space for seed-stage companies
Fees: Includes a 7.5% placement fee and 5% convertible note or equity fee, based on how much you raise on the platform.
SeedInvest is an equity crowdfunding platform where backers are investors rather than supporters. This means that investors receive ownership in your company after they buy in. SeedInvest was the first crowdfunding platform to allow regular people who don’t qualify as accredited investors to invest in companies on their sites.
Since its inception in 2012, SeedInvest has helped over 235 companies raise capital and has built a growing network of over 500,000 investors. Tech and ecommerce businesses make up most of the platform’s successful campaigns.
If you want to raise money on SeedInvest, you’ll need to sign up for an account. This involves filling out an application and completing a screening process so the platform can do its due diligence. If you are accepted, you can create a profile and begin fundraising on SeedInvest.
Best equity crowdfunding site for high-growth startups
Fees: $4,000-$10,000 for Regulation Crowdfunding financial review and legal documentation.
StartEngine is another equity crowdfunding platform where you can raise capital through a site's network of over 760,000 prospective investors.
In order to open investment to the general public, StartEngine allows fundraising through Regulation Crowdfunding, an exception to SEC regulations that allows companies to raise up to $5 million. While this process is more streamlined than traditional methods of raising funds from accredited investors, it still has strict financial and legal requirements.
Fortunately, StartEngine provides the financial review and legal documentation necessary to launch a Reg CF campaign. However, it comes at a high upfront cost relative to what other crowdfunding sites charge, and can be even higher for companies looking to raise more than $5M.
Companies can save on costs by capping their fundraising at $107,000, or passing the cost onto investors in the form of a 3.5% fee on top of the share price. Nevertheless, StartEngine is likely best for startups that have already experienced some degree of validation and have demonstrated their potential for growth.
Raise money for your business today
Crowdfunding can offer entrepreneurs a way to start raising money needed to start a business, speed up the product development process, or fund business growth with access to a network of potential investors and customers.
In fact, many Shopify merchants have seen their business take off thanks to the money they raised through crowdfunding sites like the ones on our list.
Nevertheless it still takes a little bit of luck and pre-launch marketing tactics for you to realize your fundraising goals. You need to spread awareness of your idea and convince people that it's worth backing, after all, so pitch your campaign the right way to the right people.
If you're looking for a traditional business loan, check out How to Get a Small Business Loan and What to Know Before Applying.
Illustration by Rose Wong
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Crowdfunding sites FAQ
What are the advantages of crowdfunding?
Do you pay back crowdfunding?
- If you are using donation crowdfunding (i.e., GoFundMe) you don’t have to pay the money back.
- If you are raising money with exchange crowdfunding, where you ask for money and give something in return, you must fulfill your obligation.
- If you raise money through equity crowdfunding, you don’t need to pay any money back, but must share revenue with investors.
Which crowdfunding sites are the best?